We’ve covered the issue of players transfers many, many times within these pages.
In basketball, the most promiscuous transfer sport — just over 20% of all NCAA players leave their original program — Alabama has been a beneficiary (Tevin Mack, Corban Collins), but more often than not has been on the receiving end of a business decision (Braxton Key most recently, but see also Trevor Lacey and Justin Coleman, for instance.)
In football, where Alabama stacks blue chips along the two-deep like a drunk sailor in Tunica with pocket aces, the Tide has more often than not lost talented players to other programs. The reasons are not purely competitive, as in the case of Blake Barnett. Sometimes there is bad advice and overbearing parents, as in the sad case of Kendall Sheffield. You have players than know, for an ironclad fact, they could and should be starting elsewhere immediately (hi, Alvin Kamara). There are the disciplinary problems that mask greater issues (RIP Altee Tenpenny.) There is
outright alleged player tampering — looking at you Maurice Smith. You get the homesick players, like Shawn Burgess Becker. Then you have players who have done everything right, but because of injury or development just never quite get to where they need to be — the players you really pull for when they hang up the crimson and white for good: Dee Hart, Chris Black, and most recently Dallas Warmack come to mind.
Whatever the case may be, with some notable exceptions, these players are required to sit out a full year. The SEC rule, in part, does not permit SEC-to-SEC transfer unless a waiver has been granted by the original school:
A transfer student from a member institution shall not be eligible for intercollegiate competition at another member institution until the student has fulfilled a residence requirement of one full academic year (two full semesters) at the certifying institution. Further, a transfer student-athlete admitted after the 12th class day may not utilize that semester for the purpose of establishing residency. Student-athletes meeting the terms of [the relevant NCAA rules] may seek a waiver of the provisions of this bylaw.
And you know what? That’s fair.
When players sign their LOI at Alabama, they freely enter a bargain that goes like this: You will receive the benefit of years of the best housing, development, training, national exposure, coaching, nutrition, career and professional mentoring, health care, rehabilitation, dining, and facilities in the nation, all on top of a free world-class education and monthly stipend, and you shall do so against the best competition that the sport provides. In return, you covenant that if you wish to transfer, after haven taken hundreds of thousands of dollars of the university’s investment in you, tangible or otherwise, that the university will not waive your transfer. Morever, in order to cut down on tampering, skullduggery and free agency, such transfers as you wish to make may generally not be inside the conference or with a team on our schedule. If you want to do so, you’ll have to go through the league, the NCAA, and then sit out. We’re not waiving it. Deal?
And, in the end, they have all agreed to the bargain: to the obligations that each side owe another and that each side shall act in good faith towards the other.
That’s really what’s at stake here. The university is not profiting off of Player A that has ridden the pine for two years, so much as the University has made a significant material investment in that player. And that player has willfully taken those benefits and did so knowing what the university promised to do for him during the course of a career. But, by entering into that agreement in a sport with limited finite resources, and more than a little bit of cheating, the player knows that the school has a right to safeguard its intellectual property — so this is what he promises back to the school; obligations do not flow one way.
That seems significantly fairer when the balance of the equities are set forth, doesn’t it? Not quite the heinous gulag or ridiculous plantation analogy columnists proclaim it to be, is it?
But, like opinions and portions of the alimentary canal, there are just as many hot takes with respect to the unfairness of the system; why Player X should be waived into School Y; why Coach B is worse than Hitler; why institutions should bear all burdens of loss; why players have no obligations back to the institution after reaping benefits for years; why players shouldn’t keep their end of a bargain they freely entered into; why any attempt by the school to offset damage caused by player transfer is like eating sawdust tacos with ISIS — as unpalatable as it is evil, with an ontological, capital E.
There are tweaks that can be made with transfer provisions, to be sure. The Ole Miss rule is a good start. That is inequitable. And it is inequitable for the reasons set forth above — the school has not kept its end of the bargain. Graduate transfer restrictions also make litte sense: once the sheepskin is earned, the obligation to the university should cease. Don’t lose track of the ultimate stake here, an education. But, the status quo minimal restrictions on most routine transfers strike me as sensible. And, yes, even as fair.
LOIs are not cash contracts; they are in-kind contracts. The players wish to be treated as paraprofessionals and adults. Honoring a contract you freely enter into, even the liquidation provisions that you do not like; honoring your end of contract that you have knowingly taken the benefits from, is part of being a professional. And it’s absolutely the grown-up, real world.
So, your question/s of the day: